NEW ORLEANS (AP) — To Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, finishing the preseason perfect mattered.
Harbaugh rested his regulars and watched with delight as Ray Rice’s backups ground out 214 yards rushing in a 22-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.
Kicker Justin Tucker was among the few Ravens regulars who did not get the night off for the final exhibition game, and his performance was also one of the reasons the Ravens closed out their four-game exhibition slate without a loss. He hit five field goals ranging from 24 to 45 yards.
“The thing that I love about these four preseason games is that guys work so hard,” Harbaugh said. “These are a bunch of guys that are going to play in the NFL for a long time. The object is to see those guys play in games and chase their dreams.”
Fitzgerald Toussaint rushed for 103 yards on 17 carries and rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro gained 88 yards on 25 carries. Baltimore outgained New Orleans in total yards 436-190.
“I’ve looked at this entire training camp as an opportunity to play in the NFL,” Taliaferro said. “Tonight, we rushed the ball well, and now we have to get ready to play for real.”
NFL rosters, which were cut to 75 players this week, must be trimmed down to 53 by Saturday for the regular season.
“That’s out of my hands now,” Taliaferro said. “But for the last few months we’ve all worked hard as a team to get ready the best way we can for the regular season.”
Baltimore found the end zone only once on Tyrod Taylor’s 8-yard pass to Deonte Thompson, but that was enough against the Saints (3-1), who struggled to score while quarterback Drew Brees got the night off.
“A lot of different guys played a lot of snaps tonight,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Obviously I think just from the sideline view, we struggled stopping the run and ourselves running the ball. We’ll spend some time on this tape. I’ve said before in practice it was going to be important in the evaluation process.”
Free agent rookie safety Pierre Warren, trying to make the cut, had an interception for New Orleans.
Brees’ backup, Luke McCown, completed all four of his passes, including a short touchdown toss to Travaris Cadet in his only series.
“I feel like I took the opportunities I had and put my best foot forward,” McCown said.
New Orleans managed only two more field goals by Derek Dimke after Ryan Griffin relieved McCown in the first quarter.
Both clubs gave many starters the night off. Taylor started for the Ravens, completing 10 of 17 passes for 105 yards, a TD and an interception.
The Saints decision to rest Brees, who had strained a left oblique muscle early in camp, means he’ll head into the regular season having played a total of three offensive series in the preseason.
He played only the first quarter of last week’s game at Indianapolis, leading two touchdown drives.
The Saints did play 36-year-old, 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey.
Because of a foot injury, he’d made his preseason debut only a week earlier, and what role he’ll play during the regular season remains unclear. He played only the first quarter against Baltimore, giving up a 7-yard completion.
Quarterback Joe Flacco did not take a snap. Rice also did not play.
Taylor played the entire first half, leading four scoring drives, and Baltimore led 16-13 at halftime.
Keith Wenning took over under center in the second half, going 8 of 13 for 117 yards.
McCown passed for 29 yards on his lone drive, which was helped by two personal fouls on Baltimore.
Griffin, a second-year pro out of Tulane trying to wrest the backup job from the veteran McCown, played the rest of the way, going 11 for 21 for 126 yards. He was not intercepted and was sacked once.
The Saints, founded in 1967, have never made it through a preseason without a loss. However, they did go 3-1 in the 2009 season, the same season they won their only Super Bowl.
Notes: Ravens TE Phillip Supernaw absorbed a hit to the head and team officials said he was evaluated for a concussion, according to NFL protocol. … Payton said K Shayne Graham would have kicked field goals in the second half, had there been an opportunity. He and Dimke have both made all their field goal attempts in the preseason, but Graham missed a 32-yard extra point in the preseason opener.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)